(Editor’s Note: This is the second piece published on grade inflation by a UT student requesting, for obvious reasons, anonymity. SeeThruEdu.com has confirmed that he is in fact a current UT student.)
MyEdu is a website that advises students which college courses to take. It is not unique in this respect. Many popular websites offer scheduling tools and professor ratings. MyEdu, however, features grade distributions. Such information used to be private; however, it is now easily accessible online.
One might say that there have always been ways for students to get easy A’s, for example, word of mouth. This is true. However, with sites like MyEdu, and with the proliferation of similar sites over time, there will soon be a quantum leap in grade inflation. MyEdu all but guarantees students a statistically-proven path to a high GPA. If you can choose a class with a professor who historically gives out ten times more A’s than another professor, you are artificially boosting your GPA. At most, word of mouth can only encapsulate a few dozen opinions, whereas MyEdu compiles the official grades of hundreds, sometimes thousands, of students. The room for error is effectively erased.
However, MyEdu doesn’t stop there. The website features a one-click auto-scheduler, making the process of finding an easy schedule almost brainless. With one click, a student’s schedule will be computed through an equation—producing a schedule designed to give the student the highest possible GPA. The website even shows the expected GPA of the proposed schedule. Instead of focusing on the quality of the professor or the content of the syllabus, this online tool changes an individual student’s choice into a computer’s equation.
MyEdu is both a Texas and a national problem. UT Austin funded the website with $10 million and provided access to tens of thousands of private student records. Since 2011, MyEdu has been used by more than 83,000 Aggies and 79,000 Longhorns, a substantial majority. However, now MyEdu boasts over 5 million student users nationwide and information about over 800 schools and universities.
For Texas, however, the sad fact is that UT already is significantly below its peer institutions in performing higher education’s central task: increasing students’ critical thinking, complex reasoning, and writing skills. As shown in the groundbreaking study Academically Adrift, 36 percent of students show “small or empirically non-existent” gains in foundational skills after four years in college. UT ranks in the lowest quartile among peer universities tested; that means over 75% of peer institutions scored higher than UT, a tragic statistic. It is unfortunate that a university already known for poor student improvement is now implementing measures that will further diminish a student’s educational experience.
Even more unfortunate is the fact that UT is living by a double standard. Lately, UT has become graduation-rate obsessed. The President of UT, Bill Powers, has even pledged that UT’s four-year graduation rates will increase from 50% to 70% within the next three years. MyEdu was funded by UT in order to help increase graduation rates. The effect is that the university is steamrolling students through college, stamping out too many statistically unimproved students with high GPAs. It seems that UT is all too willing to cooperate with legislators on graduation rate measures. UT should be willing, then, to advocate for measures that would improve the quality of student education. UT follows the lead of the legislature when it comes to increasing graduation rates, but fails to lead when it comes to improving academic quality.
In my last article, I wrote about the national epidemic of grade inflation. But, if you think grade inflation is bad now–and it is–you ain’t seen nothing yet. It is very likely that websites like MyEdu will soon spread further across the nation. It seems that grade inflation, already at an all-time high, will know no bounds, unless we work to curtail it now.